Communication Makeover: Furniture Assembly Instructions

Jellyvision Benefits Communication

Here at Jellyvision, our bread and butter is taking confusing, annoying, boring experiences and making them surprisingly clear and engaging. Well, you know what one of the most confusing, annoying, boring experiences in the world is? Trying to decipher assembly directions.

Recently, I ordered a set of four chairs online. The set I ordered mentioned that it “Requires some assembly”. The listing also had a lot of reviews by people saying that the chairs are hard to put together. One person said that it took over an hour for each chair.

That should have stopped me from buying them. But I liked the chairs so much that I ordered them anyway, hoping that it really was just “some assembly,” like the listing said. Or maybe that my love for this furniture would conquer any difficulty of assembling it.

After the chairs arrived, I unboxed them and took them out, piece by piece, along with the three pages of instructions. That’s when reality set in:

This is just one of the pages. “Some assembly required”? This looks like “a lot of assembly required”!

The pieces for one chair. The instructions also mentioned I needed two types of screw drivers and a hammer – not included in the box. So instead of trying to build a chair, I made a new friend named Chairlene.

The pieces for one chair. The instructions also mentioned I needed two types of screw drivers and a hammer – not included in the box. So instead of trying to build a chair, I made a new friend and named her Chairlene.

I could tell that the chairs would be nice, once they were put together. But after realizing that the instructions were confusing and there were a million pieces to each chair, I almost fell to pieces myself. I put wrong pieces together. Sometimes I put things in backwards. Not fun.

After I was done, instead of just feeling annoyed, I decided to take a stab at “Jellyvisioning” the assembly directions as a way of redeeming the experience. Below are the tweaks I made:

More exaggerated assembly illustrations

In the original illustration, it’s hard to see that the chair backing piece is curved. Here, I made the backing curvier so that it’s easy to see which way this part should be attached.

I also added shading to show which side should be on the outside or inside.

Step-by-step text instructions

The original instructions barely had any text, which led to a lot of confusion. Under each image, I added clear instructions that explained exactly how to put the pieces together and which tools and pieces to use.

Better layout

I felt there was too much going, visually, in a small amount of space. To eliminate all the distraction, I separated the close-ups further apart and added thicker arrows to and around the close-ups. This helps the customer better understand the progression of steps.

Bonus suggestion: Make clear how much work is involved

If a customer buys your chairs, and then patiently waits for them to arrive, they will be heart-broken, like the many reviewers and I was, to find out that it’s a lot more than just “Some assembly required” to build the chairs of their dreams. “Some” could mean different things to different people.

Instead, I think it would be helpful to simply include the amount of time it might take to build each chair. For example: “Assembly required. Average assembly time per chair: 15-20 minutes. And if you wanted to add a little personality to this section, you might also add “P.S. If you want to speed up the process, consider bribing some friends with pizza to come over and help. 🙂 ”

Anyway, to sum up: assembly instructions (like the ones for these chairs) don’t have to be super-frustrating. All it really takes is putting yourselves in the shoes of the person reading or looking at the thing, wondering where they might get tripped up, and making a few adjustments.